by Mark Walz, Jr.
As a United Methodist church, St. Luke’s mission is “to know, love, worship, and follow God and to make Him known to others.” Our vision statement emphasizes the importance of introducing “Jesus Christ in Every Life.” We “value each person as having infinite worth” and “value excellence in all we do in order to honor God.” As a church, we are also committed to promoting ethical practices that develop character and enrich human and natural communities, we believe in ecological stewardship, promote recycling, and abstain from non-recyclable materials (like styrofoam). We also want to become a church that emphasizes the importance of advancing social, economic, and environmental justice.
Our mission field goes well beyond our membership to include all the people around us to whom God has called St. Luke to serve. Our call to make disciples and our call to serve come together when we engage our entire community and build positive, incarnational relationships with those we encounter.
In the Lexington area there are a growing number of Congolese immigrants. Lexington is home to the third largest population of Congolese in the United States. Ninety-six percent of the Congolese refugees indicate they are Christian. St. Luke UMC is heavily invested in the Congolese refugee community in Lexington and has a large congregation of Congolese-born people in the congregation as well as a weekly worship service in Swahili, the lingua franca of the Democratic Republic Congo.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is currently facing the deadliest conflict since World War II. The International Rescue Committee has determined that over 5.4 million civilian deaths have occurred as a consequence of the armed conflict in eastern Congo. This conflict in eastern Congo is being fueled by a multi-million dollar trade in minerals that go into electronic products from cell phones to digital cameras. Armed groups in the DRC have earned hundreds of millions of dollars through the illegal exploitation of conflict minerals (namely: tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold) that are essential in all consumer electronics products, as well as other products such as jewelry and automobiles. These same armed groups are vying for control of mineral resources in the DRC and blatantly commit human rights violations, such as widespread rape as a weapon of war and the recruitment of child soldiers.
Signed into law in 2010 and implemented in 2012, section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act requires that companies publicly traded in the U.S. submit an annual report to the Securities and Exchange Commission disclosing whether their products contain gold, tin, tantalum, or tungsten from Congo or an adjoining country and what steps they are taking to determine whether those materials are supporting armed groups. An investigative report (conducted just three years after the implementation of this law) identified early signs of success as there has been a sharp increase of activity amongst technology companies to accelerate reform efforts such as the production of the world’s first fully conflict-free product that contains clean Congolese minerals.
The United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) is among the organizational endorsers of pledges to discourage manufacturers from using in their products minerals from the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. St. Luke pledges to follow suit.
Each year, St. Luke budgets funds for the purchase of computers and other electronics that might possibly have these minerals in them. Therefore, we, as a church, commit to take into account whether electronics products contain conflict minerals in future purchasing decisions and, when feasible, favor companies that are working to source or have sourced verifiably conflict-free minerals from eastern Congo for their products.
We want to encourage YOU as a follower of Christ and as a possible consumer of electronic products in the United States to take some time to think about and research any electronics you are considering for purchase in the future and how such a small, simple decision can have such a wide positive impact on the Kingdom of God.
More information about the conflict mineral situation as well as a list of companies who are actively involved in abstaining from conflict minerals is available at the Raise Hope for Congo website at http://www.raisehopeforcongo.org. The website provides information about what you can do to help end the trade in conflict minerals that is fueling the war in Congo, and to protect and empower Congo’s women and children.